Best Over/Under Shotguns for Less than $1,000 (Part 1)

Mossberg has a reputation for building reliable firearms for folks who prefer affordable performance over aesthetic frills. That function-before-form strategy applies to the company’s recently released Silver Reserve II Series of double-barrel shotguns, upgrades over the original Silver Reserve series released in 2005. Nearly all 18 models of over-unders and side-by-sides in the series carry suggested retail prices of less than $1,000.
So Outdoor LIfe took the 12-gauge field model of the SRII for a test drive to see how much a grand can get you these days.


Mossberg Silver Reserve II
28-inch Barrels
My test model featured 28-inch split ventilated-rib barrels with a single bead. It has a classic deep blued finish. Overall, the metalwork was decent, although there were some rough edges and what appeared to be material between the two barrels that was missed in the milling process.

Tang-Mounted Safety/Barrel Selector
The tang-mounted safety/barrel selector operated with a positive “click” when changing from safe to fire and between top and bottom barrels. Barrel selection can only be made when the gun is on safe. One thing I appreciated, although others might criticize as a safety issue, is that the safety does not reengage when the gun is opened. For occasional clay target shooting or hot dove shooting, I like this feature.

Shell Extractors
My test gun came with extractors, but an ejector model is also available for a few bucks more. The extractors operated flawlessly and raised the shells high enough to easily remove them in a hurry.

Flush Chokes
The gun shipped with five flush-mount choke tubes, a wrench and a small plastic choke tube case. I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality. The threads seemed rough and gritty, even after I scrubbed them clean. And the threads were cut into the muzzle end, instead of the bottom end, of the choke tubes with two small notches removed from the tubes for getting purchase with the wrench. This exposes part of the barrel’s threads to grime and dirt. Mossberg marked each choke with a series of small grooves on the muzzle end, with the number of grooves indicating the choke constriction. This doesn’t look great, but it does allow the user to ID the choke when installed, which is a nice feature.

At first I was unimpressed by the trigger. It broke awkwardly, with a hard back wall. But after a few rounds of clays, it seemed to break in and operated flawlessly, with an extremely fast reset time to the second barrel. I gave it a good workout by shooting some quartering-away targets, then following up each initial shot by shooting a piece of the broken target as fast as I could with the second barrel. By the time I sent it back to Mossberg, the trigger was one of my favorite features. If you buy one, give it a little break-in time to grow on you.

Walnut Stock
The walnut stock on my test gun had nice grain for a gun with an MSRP of $693. It was even on par with some of the popular over-unders you’d see in the $2,000 price range. It was given a satin, no-frills finish. I liked the slim butt stock. It came to my face quickly for fast shots on low, zipping outgoing targets. It has a standard pistol grip.

Polished, Engraved Receiver
The polished, silver-finished receiver was given a nice wrap-around scrollwork, an upgrade, in my opinion, from the roughly done gold-finished bird engravings on the original model. A Mossberg “M” is engraved on the underside.

The gun locks closed with a steel slab in the bottom of the action. Although the gun opened and closed without too much resistance out of the box, I felt the action locked up good and tight. My only real complaint with the action was that the top lever occasionally swung back to the closed position when the gun was open. Several times I attempted to close it only to have the barrels come down on the locking slab in the action.

Final Thoughts
At less than 7 ½ pounds, this gun isn’t too heavy to carry afield but is too light for high-volume shooting, in my opinion. After a couple rounds of skeet doubles, I felt the recoil in my shoulder. It felt a bit whippy on crossing targets and required a little more conscious control than I was used to with heavier sporting clays guns. But on outgoing and quartering-away targets, which are more like what this gun would be used for in the field, it was quick and steady to the target and is a natural shooter. For pheasants, rabbits and other upland game, it’s definitely a winner. Plus, for less than $700, you shouldn’t feel bad about dragging it through your favorite coverts.

Continue to Part 2

Credit: Outdoor Life

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